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Tapering for a Big Event

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Article posted: 10/04/2013

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Tapering your training for an important event is an area of conditioning that even the most experienced riders get wrong. Backing off your training can leave you feeling sluggish, irritable and, even though the rest and recovery will bring you to optimum form, the temptation to squeeze in one last session can prove irresistible. Fortunately the Insight Zone Experts are here to share their tapering knowledge having ridden with and coached the world’s best.

Third place finish at Paris-Roubaix for Olympic Development Programme Rider Tao Geoghegan Hart

What is a taper and what do sessions look like?

Insight Zone Expert Joe Friel explains tapering for big events as fitness, freshness and form. In the lead up to a big event you bring down you exercise volume and increase you race like efforts, with efforts completed every 72-96 hours before the race day. Long drawn out hours on the bike are not going to make you any faster or make you feel better, take comfort in the training you have completed.

Matt Winston confirms this with how the Olympic Development Programme riders prepare for the Junior Paris-Roubaix race

“The week beforehand consists of a couple of 2 hour easy rides with some harder efforts, ideally on cobbles if they have them near where they’re staying. The efforts are no more than 2 minutes. Also they’ll have a steady ride of around the race duration 4 days beforehand. The day before they travel they will have a couple of easy hours on the road. The day before is a reconnaissance day, nothing but looking at the environment they are riding on and what race strategy will be”.

Pre race reconnaissance ride on Saturday for Olympic Development Programme riders

Roger Hammond confirms Matt’s view of tapering from his own preparation for big one day events:

“In the lead up to a big target race you need to do some sort of race like efforts during that taper week.  If I was racing on a Sunday, I would have to do quite a good ride on the Wednesday, just to let my body remember what it had to do. Drink plenty of water because this helps clear out all of the toxins that have built up in your body throughout the last three weeks of training and just be sensible with your eating. It’s very easy to overeat and feel bloated on the day.”

The take home message from the experts is to reduce your training session length, increase the power or cadence drills and rest up for your big event. You can find this detail in the British Cycling Sportive Training Plans for beginner, intermediate and advanced level riders.

What you can learn

Adaption: Adaption through training takes place over weeks and months, training hard leading up to a race or event is only going to make you feel tired. Do some short leg speed and or power burst drills to help for your event. Heavy last minute training won’t make you any fitter.

Nutrition: As Great Britain Cycling Team and Team Sky Nutritionist Nigel Mitchell suggests, this is not a time to change anything. Have a normal pasta meal with some lean meat, something that you’ve practiced having the night before big training rides and drink lots of water to stay hydrated before the event.

Riders relaxing in their hotel rooms with free WIFI and mobile entertainment

Rest: With work, friends and family, rest might be hard to get. Try to plan as much downtime as possible, where you can put your feet up, have a go on the laptop or watch a movie. Your legs will thank you for it on race day. Enjoy the rest and have faith in the training you’ve done.

Equipment: Wide sweeping changes to set up and last minute tinkering should be restricted at this point. Only if you have something which will severely affect race day should you change it. Make sure you have packed a kit bag for the end of your event and channel any excess energy or nerves into productive logistical preparations.

Last minute checks for riders before the race starts

Enjoy: Enjoy the spare time you’ll have and the feeling of peaking to event day fitness. It’s is a wonderful thing, you’ve done all the hard training and now it’s time to reap the rewards.

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